The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto would like society to spend a little more time holding young women accountable for having been sexually assaulted, because James Taranto is apparently incapable of acknowledging that there exist cultural imbalances that act entirely in his favor.
Taranto is a foot soldier in the nonexistent "war on men," standing outside the well-fortified walls of male power, a little dagger in his hand, railing against the women walking past on the horizon. He's defended a reduced sentence for a man convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious coworker. He's blamed women for not following 1950s-era guidelines for sexual relationships. He thinks birth control has been a net negative. And there's more.
On Tuesday, he added this to the canon.
If two drunk drivers are in a collision, one doesn't determine fault on the basis of demographic details such as each driver's sex. But when two drunken college students "collide," the male one is almost always presumed to be at fault.
In other words, if a man and a woman are both drinking, and the man sexually assaults the woman, if he rapes her, they're kind of both at fault, really. That's Taranto's argument.
Should it not be sufficiently self-obviously stupid as to not need a debunking, here: His analogy is flawed. It is more like there are two drunk drivers, one going 90 the wrong way down a one-way street, the other sleeping it off in the garage of her own home. When the cars collide, the two are not equally at fault; the one who is breaking the law is the one to blame. That isn't hard to understand. Another analogy: If I murder a guy after we get into a drunken fistfight, why am I always the one "presumed to be at fault"?
Taranto lives in a world in which women who are drunk to the point of near-unconsciousness should be presumed to be granting willing consent to whatever behaviors men engage in. He calls Stanford University's rules around legal consent "self-evidently unjust," since it grants to women who claim that they were assaulted when drunk the presumption that this is indeed the case. This is an injustice, in James Taranto's eyes.
There are so many other complexities that bear mentioning: the fact that sexual assault victims are far, far, far more likely to be female; data noted by ThinkProgress showing that false rape accusations — a staple of Taranto's eager defenses of his gender — are rare. Taranto's argument is like those in favor of voter ID laws: Just because this thing almost never happens doesn't mean I can't use it to excuse my political philosophy. (James Taranto also supports voter ID laws.)
The grossest thing about Taranto's gentle request that we stop to consider the feelings of drunk guys who jam their clumsy hands into nearly-unconscious women's pants is that it serves only to encourage that behavior. At Reddit's execrable and depressingly misguided "men's rights" forum — a proud redoubt of the idea that the most powerful group in the United States should have no restrictions placed upon it under any circumstances — Taranto's post and ThinkProgess' rebuttal are both on the front page. Taranto's is headlined "Drunkenness and Double Standards- A Balanced Look at College Sex Offenses." ThinkProgress': "Writer can't grasp that two drunken college students having sex are mutually responsible for their drunken decision--she suggests the male is a rapist." (Both just appeared there so comments haven't yet begun to roll in.)
Taranto's piece probably will have more of an effect over the long term. I suspect that for months or years to come, every time the bewildered and unpersecuted community of men's-righters comes across a case in which an accused rapist says he heard a slurred yes from his victim, his article will quickly appear as a link. In that sense, Taranto will have accomplished exactly what he hoped: giving a breath of relief to a group that wants to defend the behavior of its worst members.
Incidentally, this nonsense is not Taranto's only essay in the Journal today. Beneath his call for the victims of sexual assault to share some of the blame is an excoriation of the idea that climate change exists. Because if James Taranto doesn't rise to the defense of fossil fuel polluters destroying the world, who will?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.